The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) says it plans to have she shashishalhem-English dual language road signs installed along Highway 101 by the end of March.
The sign project, with an estimated cost of $80,000, was one of the initiatives identified in the 2018 Foundation Agreement between the shíshálh Nation and the province.
In an email to Coast Reporter, MOTI officials said, “The existing distance guide signs and service and attraction signs will be replaced with dual language versions, along with new signs to identify Saltery Bay, Earls Cove and Trout Lake. As well, new community entrance signs will be installed to mark the boundaries of the shíshálh swiya and chat’lich.”
The shíshálh swiya is the term used for the nation’s traditional territory, while chat’lich is the shíshálh name for the downtown Sechelt area.
The 20 new signs will be placed along a 65-kilometre stretch of the highway between Roberts Creek, at the southern boundary of the shíshálh swiya, and Lang Bay, about mid-way between Saltery Bay and Powell River, at the northern end.
The ministry officials said letters went out to the District of Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast Regional District in early January outlining the plan.
The design of the signs will show the shíshálh place name above with the English-language name in brackets below.
MOTI said that design is the same used for similar signs in Haida and Tsilhqot’in Nation territories.
The first dual language signs in the province, installed on the Sea to Sky Highway before the 2010 Olympics, “were developed with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations during the Sea to Sky Highway improvement project and have the Indigenous language below the English name,” according to the ministry.
The sign installations are getting underway as the province’s Geographical Names Office begins consultations with local governments and other stakeholders on proposals for official name changes for the communities of Madeira Park and Wilson Creek.
The identification and recommendation of geographical features and locations within the shíshálh swiya to be renamed was also part of the Foundation Agreement.
Similar agreements with the Tsilhqot’in Nation led to both dual language highway signage in that territory and the adoption of new names for six communities in the Chilcotin region in early 2018.
The Geographical Names Office request for comment on the name proposal for Wilson Creek was discussed briefly by Sechelt council at their Feb. 5 meeting, and directors with the Sunshine Coast Regional District are expected to discuss both the naming proposals and new highway signage at a Feb. 27 committee meeting.
– With files from Canadian Press